BharatNet, the world's largest rural broadband project to provide broadband connectivity to all the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, covering nearly 6.25 lakh villages, is still a dream for many Indian villages. Only 2.5 per cent of the goal to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats has been achieved till now. While the number of Wi-Fi hotspots installed in the villages stood at a mere 45,769, only 18,041 of them are operative, according to the data provided by Sanjay Dhotre, MoS for Communications, Human Resource Development, and Electronics & Information Technology, in a reply to a question in Lok Sabha. In West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and five out of seven north-eastern states, not even half of the wifi spots installed are operative.
To improve the last mile connectivity in India, the government approved the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) initiative, later renamed as BharatNet, in 2011. However, the project did not catch pace in the starting years but improved under Narendra Modi's Digital India campaign.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has proposed to allocate Rs 6,000 crore to the BharatNet programme that aims to provide on-demand, affordable broadband connectivity to all households and institutions with internet speeds of at least 2 megabytes per second.
Also, under the BharatNet project, Rs 42,068 crore is approved to facilitate broadband connectivity in all the Gram Panchayats in the country. The project is being implemented in three phases. Phase 1 covered 1 lakh GPs, Phase 2 targeting 1.5 lakh, and Phase 3 is supposed to focus on infrastructure up-gradation of the existing facility. Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad said earlier this month that the BharatNet project is being implemented in a phased manner to provide broadband connectivity to all the gram panchayats.